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Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between an acquaintance and a stranger? Or what makes two lovers connect with one another? According to Dr. Maya Rossignac-Milon, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia Business School, a close relationship often ensues when two people share the same feelings. Similarly, a shared reality exists between two people who share an understanding of the world, including, for example, in their senses of humor, opinions, and interests. Per Rossignac-Milon, there are four sequential phases of shared reality: feelings, practices, coordination, and identity. Once two people complete the first phase, they will typically proceed to the next. And so on and so forth.

If during any of the four phases one of the two partners in a relationship neglects their shared reality, the relationship is likely to suffer (potentially irrevocable) damage. The shared reality theory is helpful in understanding breakup-induced heartache, because partners not only lose the physical presence of their loved one, but also a shared understanding of the world. Angie Lee

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